Cinemar MainLobby

Control your house with MainLobby Server and an IPhone.  But this product does so much more..

MainLobby Server (MLServer) Log view and uptime

 

I have used MainLobby Server(MLServer) from Cinemar for years and will continue to do so for many more.  Before the IPhone/ITouch was available I bought the server and front end package as I thought I was going to use expensive touch screens to control my home.  But when i decided an ITouch was my preferred method of control I realised I only needed the server itself.

 

I really don't use MainLobby to it's fullest extent but the features I do use are well worth the money.  Here's what i use it for:

Webserver/Interface for control

The main reason why I run MLServer is the fact that it has a built in webserver.  This is the power behind my web app which i can dish out to any tech device with a browser.  At first I thought I could most probably build something myself using IIS on windows or use Homeseer as a webserver, but after seeing the IPhone demo supplied for free with MLserver I changed my mind as it's a great starting point.  MLServer provides a database which holds all the current states of your devices and any other variables you want to set.  You can access these variables easily using the javascript and HTML they have supplied, although I've hacked mine about quite alot, it will work out the box with only a few name changes in the HTML.  Here's an example which changes my Neothings Matrix Switcher to- In 7,out 2, so my PC shows up in my lounge:

<a onclick="Neothings('Switch.7','2');"  href="#">PC</a></p> <p>I then have a list of Macros on MLServer itself, again another good feature.  It's got it's own flavour of syntax but it's well documented.  I've got a VB/ASP/.net background and found it fairly straight forward.  You can do 'if' statements so no problem there and the plus side is all your Macros are nicely filed away neatly rather than scattered all over your HTML.  It does have it's limitations, but for straight forward home control it's a must if you're running windows.</p> <h4>IR database</h4> <p>MainLobby has a great way of managing all your IR codes.  It has a very good user interface which makes entering IR codes easy without getting overwhemed by data.  I think it's one of the best solutions out there and i've opted to use MainLobby for IR control even though I'm running Homeseer.</p> <p><img src="/images/screenshots/MainLobby_GC100plugin.jpg" border="0" alt="MainLobby GC100plugin IR Database example" width="500" height="414" />.

IR control via Global Cache

I have a Global Cache device attached to my network.  MLServer sends commands to the Global Cache which then emits IR and controls the IR device.  I had to install a plugin for this but it's worth it.

Homeseer Control

I wish MainLobby did everything, but it doesn't, so most of you will find you'll need something like Homeseer to control other devices like X10 for example.  I also use Homeseer for VB scripting and Sonos Control.  You need to buy a plugin to make Homeseer communicate to MLServer which adds more expense but spread over the years I've used it, I wouldn't go with out.

Because my interface runs from MLServer I use MLServer to do anything it can first.  If it can't do the task i want, I can send a Homeseer command to execute an HS event, turn on a device or run a custom script.  The plugin has a reasonable interface and also gives you the ability to share variables.  This means you have 2 way communication so an X10 device triggered in Homeseer can change a value of a variable in MLServer which can then display in near realtime on any hand held device.

MainLobby_MLHSPlugin shows MLServer talking to Homeseer

Matrix Switch Controller

I have a Neothings Matrix Switcher which has a USB interface.  MLServer have a plugin which controls the matrix switcher nicely.  2 way control is almost a must for complex installs as knowing the sate of your matrix switcher is fairly critical to most operations.  MLServer controls my switcher well.  I have found if you disconnect the power to the matrix switcher whilst the server is still running it won't connect again, but instead takes up alot of CPU power until it's shut down.  I found that out in a power cut because my server is on a UPS.

MainLobby_MatrixSwitcher_controller - shows the input and outputs of my Neothing Matrix switcher

A Great way to manage and control your media

I haven't got round to using this feature on MainLobby yet, but I plan to.  It's a extra plugin but adds a bit of polish to your install.  I currently use airmouse and windows, but that isn't wife friendly.  Luckily she uses Sky+ so rarely has any need to view anything on a PC.. DVDLobby And MusicLobby are powerful video and audio management libaries.  You could easily use MusicLobby to replace something like Sonos if you have your house cabled correctly.  I use Sonos, so don't have a need for MusicLobby, but DVDLobby is another story.  It would be nice to have access to everything in one app, but currently that means trading off something or alot of hacking about to make it work like controlling Sonos in the background whilst controlling via MusicLobby.  It can be done, but it's time and Sonos works very well.

DVDLobby is a nice touch to any teched up house.  It can be used on your mobile/wireless devices such as IPhones and ITouches and takes away the clumsy windows interface.  Once I've got round to setting it up I'll write an article.

There's so much more

Check out the Cinemar website if you want to find what else you can do with MainLobby.  They have good forums, support and lists of plugins to choose from.  I've only covered what I use it for so best to have a good read to find out what else MainLobby has to offer.

 

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